Saturday, 29 November 2008

How to get married -- in ten easy steps

1. Find a girl(/boy)

I met Jin just over three years ago in October 2005, at a Warwick University Buddhist Society meditation session. My first impression was that she was a caring and friendly person -- in the chats we had before the meditation started I felt real warmth and interest in her conversation, rather than the polite non-commital offerings which I often engaged in with newcomers to the sessions. I found out later that she was also impressed by my friendliness, and also because I had a sexy back, which I guess I should be grateful for.

Jin soon became a regular, and while she inexplicably declined to join in with our famous 'meditation-on-ice' Buddhist Society ice-skating socials, she did invite some of us round to dinner at her house and occasionally joined us for outings to local restaurants, and slowly we got to know each other a little better.

Eight months later, in May 2006, a coincidence of an unfortunate biking accident for Jin and the purchase of my very first car just two weeks earlier provided the necessary spark to start a chain reaction leading to an unexpected and much more intimate relationship (I drove her to the hospital).

2. Meet the Parents

I introduced Jin to my parents the following December. Jin was very nervous (such a meeting is a big thing in Korea), but was slightly relaxed by the presence of my uncle at the house, whose loud jokes distracted some attention away from her. After lunch I was chatting to my brother when suddenly I realised Jin had disappeared. I went to look for her and was shocked to find her with my mum in the living room -- going through my baby photo album! (Apparently my mum had no idea this might be embarrasing.) Actually mum was doing a very good job of helping Jin feel welcome. At one point she offered Jin one of her geometrical wooden puzzles to have a go at -- Jin interpreted this as a test of intelligence she had to pass before she was admitted into the family. (Fortunately she completed the puzzle very quickly.)

My meeting with Jin's parents was a much more protracted affair. When they visited England in March 2007 I drove them with Jin to see the Forest Hermitage (Buddhist Temple), where I was staying at the time. Jin introduced me strictly as 'a friend', although later that day, when they were back at home and I was back at the Hermitage she decided to tell her mum the truth. Fortunately Jin's parents accepted me as her foriegn boyfriend ('anything is better than nothing'). The next time I saw them was when we arrived in Korea that September -- you can read all about that encounter on my first ever blog post...

3. Get some motivation

Jin's parents were keen for us to get married as soon as we arrived in Korea, although strangely the pressure decreased with time, perhaps because they realised I wasn't in a rush to leave. Soon after I started looking for work it became apparent that marriage also provided several practical benifits to international couples -- simplifications to visa and work permit regulations primary among them. After living together for a couple of years Jin and I both came to the conclusion that we could live together happily, and that living apart was likely to be worse. Finally we were getting older, marriage had started to become a not-so-uncommon phenomenon between our friends and colleagues, and if everyone else is doing it...

4. Do the paperwork

We legally tied the knot on the 12th of August. This involved a bit of running around between the British Embassy and the Seoul City Council office, some signatures -- Jin, I and two witnesses -- and some money. Getting married in Korea costs just £5, but to get an oath from the British Embassy proving I wasn't already married and to register the marriage in England cost £200 -- it's just not fair!

The next step was to transfer my visa to resident's status. Here I was rather pleased to find that as a British Citizen I was exempt from the £25 fee. Jin had to give a statement pledging to be my guarantor during my stay in Korea. When asked how long she wanted this pledge to last for she proudly replied 'forever' -- only to be told 'The maximum is four years. How can you be so sure?'. Love and bureaucracy do not mix.

5. Find a date

For this we had a little help from Jin's mother's fortune teller. In autumn the trees in Seoul put on a spectacular show of colours lasting for about two weeks, so we hoped to have our wedding during that time (in the end we got it just right). Our spiritual advisor told us that November 8th was a particularly auspicious day for weddings, and so that was the date she chose. According to the spirits (or stars, or something...) though, Jin had no luck to get married this year, so she was surprised the wedding was happening at all! Just put it down to the Westerner's fortune -- they are apparently very difficult to read...

6. Find a venue

We decided upon a traditional Korean ceremony -- more colourful and less cliched than the 'westernised' alternative available in Korea. After this we checked out three possible locations -- the Korean Folk village, Korea House -- a venue specialising in traditional Korean performances and ceremonies, and Unhyeon-Gung -- a palace formally used by Korean royalty, now open to the public. Jin ruled out the folk village because of the presence of too many noisy kids, and according to the fortune teller getting married at the palace was bad luck because so many people had met unpleasant deaths there. That left Korea House as our choice of wedding venue. Their staff were very professional and friendly in helping us organising our ceremony, and the venue was beautiful, so we ended up very happy with our choice.

After the wedding we decided to have an evening reception at a nearby Korean tea-house. We knew the event at Korea House was going to be a big rush and we wouldn't have much time to speak to our guests, and we had very little choice in the ceremony, so a second reception for our families and close friends which we were free to design in our own style seemed like a good idea. Jin's friends and students gave us a lot of help getting the room looking lovely and welcoming guests before we arrived from the ceremony.

7. Buy the outfits

For the ceremony we needed to get some 'Hanbok', traditional Korean clothes. Jin's sister's mother-in-law happens to run a hanbok shop, so she helped us getting what we needed. Here I am modelling some below.

For the reception afterwards we went for western dress. To buy these we went to a fashion outlet on Jin's Birthday (October 19th). I offered to buy dresses for Jin's sisters too, so they accompanied us. Jin's mother also came as she wanted to buy me a new suit as a wedding gift and Jin's Aunt, whom we had met that morning, decided to come along for the ride. Shopping for clothes with women from two generations of a Korean family is a bad idea. Jin got out quite easily, finding something that both she and her mother were happy with, but Jin's younger sister had a terrible time -- everything she chose was disapproved of by her aunt or mother for reasons of style or quality, and Jin's older sister was in a bad mood from the start. Luckily though Jin and I both got what we needed, and hopefully it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience...

8. Book the honeymoon

We decided on a trip to the semi-tropical Korean island of Jeju -- a traditional destination for Korea's newly-weds. Our honeymoon was rather unusual in that we took six guests with us -- my family and friends Ant and Hema. After they had flown all the way from England to see us we didn't think it was right just to abandon them in Seoul straight after the wedding. We'll have to have a more traditional honeymoon (sans guests) a little later on.

9. Welcome the overseas guests

My family (mother, father, sister, brother) arrived in Korea two days before the wedding. We accommodated them with us in the International House of the university where I work. I felt much better after seeing them again and their presence helped to silence some of the last-minute worries I was having before the wedding (not too many in any case -- don't get the wrong idea!). On the day before the wedding we were joined by my old school friend Adam, who had taken the opportunity to book a two week holiday in neighbouring Japan, and our (already married!) friends Peter and Wendy from Warwick. The final two travelling from abroad -- Ant and Hema -- left it till the last minute and arrived on the morning of the ceremony. They struggled bravely with their jet-lag, Ant doing his bit in the wedding ceremony (see the link to pictures later) without falling over or yawning too much, and Hema making it to the evening reception before she collapsed in a corner of the tea-house (after posing for some photos). They made up for their late arrival by accompanying us on the honeymoon.

10. Tie the knot!

After sorting out all the details, on the wedding day Jin and I were able to relax (somewhat) and enjoy the festivities. The spirits did indeed smile on us and the weather was perfect, bright and warm. It was great fun getting dressed up from the ceremony and we felt like celebrities at the centre of attention of our 224 guests. After the ceremony I nearly collapsed from lack of food, but I managed to ingest a few spoons of rice-porridge and get some strength back for the reception. It was a beautiful evening and Jin and I took advantage of the more relaxed setting to give some short speeches thanking everyone who had come or given us help, and included some romantic stuff too. After we had seen everyone off Jin and I managed to head back home just before midnight, happy and married.


Three weeks later I can happily report Jin and I are still happy and married. We are gradually going through writing out thank-you letters for everyone who sent us gifts or good wishes, and starting to organise the reception we will have for our friends in the UK. There is a picture walk-through of our wedding ceremony on my picture album (linked on the right of this page), as well as some snaps from the honeymoon. In under three weeks we will be travelling to England for Christmas with my family, the above mentioned reception, and Jin's graduation. After that we may have a chance to catch our breath!


Peter said...

Those are some 10 steps!! I could see, from my own experience, how they could be "generalised" and be useful to some other individuals who might be interested to know the art of "how to get married"...

mark said...

Hey, you're right Peter! Maybe we should write a book together :-)

angel said...

Great subject. I have been playing around with the idea of the comment structure recently.
I think now Internet user are increasing day by day so company are preferring online marketing now.
I think that Marketing Online is still the best choice, cause we have high ROI´s with less investments, especially with SEO.
degree home

Michelle said...

Great post!! Just what I was looking for! ^-^